Honestly, can there be honor without honesty?

In terms of daily living, the word “honor” does not come up much and yet, in one form or another, it influences just about every aspect of daily life. As an example, what would happen if people did not honor traffic laws, traffic lights, and stop signs? Wouldn’t that make the drive to work or school a little more exciting than it should be? What happens to people, families, and businesses when they fail to honor their commitments and obligations? Generally, not much that is positive.

Each of those situations represents a different definition of “honor.” The case of the stop sign illustrates the “respect for” definition. Honesty doesn’t play a big part in why people stop at stop signs or obey traffic laws; rather it is the respect for, among other things, the law, personal safety, and potential fines and penalties that influences their decision.

The failure to honor commitments and obligations relates to the “personal integrity” definition of honor. Honesty, being truthful in what you say and do, is an integral and necessary component of this type of honor, in fact, without honesty there is no personal integrity or honor.

Now here’s the tricky part, except for the one person who taught us the meaning of honesty when He said, “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no,” all have been dishonest. At one time or another, for good reason or bad, to protect themselves or someone else, or for the convenience of the moment, all have, to some degree, lied or failed to do that which they said they would do.

Does that make them a dishonest person? Absolutely not, any more than committing an occasional honest act makes a dishonest person an honest person. It’s not the fact that a person has done something dishonest or honest, it’s how they do it that determines whether or not they are an honest person.

That is determined by what they honor, have respect for, in the living of their daily life. Do they have a respect for the truth and keeping their commitments? Do those that know them say, that’s a person that can be trusted and depended on? Or, are they a person who has little or no respect for truth and keeping their commitments? The type of person that people say can’t be trusted or depended on?

Most would have no trouble equating the term honor with honesty while they might find it a bit like an oxymoron if used in connection with dishonesty. Yet, that doesn’t change the basic fact that it is what a person honors, has respect for, that determines whether or not they are honorable. In the final analysis there is a certain symmetry to the principle that what a person honors ultimately determines whether or not that person is honorable.

No one is born with personal integrity and honesty and it’s not an absolute or perfection thing. It’s a commitment to a way of life that can be summed up in a paraphrase of the first line of the Boy Scout Oath, “On my honor I will do my best to be honorable.” An honest person is one who, in spite of an occasional misstep, does their best to honor that which is honorable and to make sure that their “yes” means yes and their “no” means no.

About Gary Groman aka The Ole Seagull

Editor of The Branson Courier
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